Crème caramel

Crème caramel or caramel pudding is a French dessert that is loved all over the world. It is a delicious custard based dessert with soft caramel on top. To make crème caramel, sugar syrup is cooked to a caramel stage and is poured into the mould or bowl before adding the custard base. When the caramel is set, custard is poured and oven cooked in a water bath. It is turned and served with the caramel sauce on top. It is a very easy dessert to prepare, once you master the art of making caramel.

Preparation time: 30 mins

Cooking time: 40 mins

Cuisine: French

Serves: 4 to 5

Ingredients

    For caramel

  • Caster Sugar – 1/2 cup or 110 gms
  • Water (optional) - 2 tbsp
  • For custard

  • Milk – 300 ml
  • Double cream – 100 ml
  • Caster sugar – 35 gms
  • Eggs – 3
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp

Method

  • Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees celsius.
  • Any type of bowls or ramekins, which can hold 1/2 cup or 120 ml liquid, can be used.
  • I have used stainless steel bowls. Any bowl or ramekin that is oven safe can be used.
  • Making caramel: There are two methods and you can choose any one of them to make the caramel.

    1. Caramel without water

  • Put the sugar in a small pan/vessel. Heat slowly and gently. Do not stir. Just shake or swirl the pan so that the sugar dissolves evenly on a low flame.
  • After 3 to 4 mins increase the flame to medium, but keep watching and swirling the pan to get an even colour.
  • As soon as you see the light amber colour or golden colour on the corner sides or in the middle, lower the flame immediately. Keep swirling in between whenever needed.
  • Do not use spoon or anything else to stir. When the syrup turns to rich golden caramel colour, switch off. It will take about 8 to 10 mins.
  • 2. Caramel with water

  • It is the same procedure as the above method, but with a little water.
  • Put the sugar and about 2 tbsp of water in a small pan. Heat gently and slowly. Mix with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Do not use the spoon again later as it will trigger crystallisation.
  • Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to medium flame and allow the syrup to bubble. The bubbles become bigger and the syrup thickens. Do not use spoon or anything to stir at this stage. Just swirl the pan.
  • Watch the syrup carefully. When it starts to turn golden at the edges, swirl the pan, to ensure even colouring.
  • When the syrup has turned golden caramel colour or medium or dark amber colour, switch off. Remove immediately from the heat to ensure the caramel does not burn.
  • Prepare the ramekins

  • Immediately pour the hot caramel equally into the bowls or the ramekins. Quickly and carefully swirl each bowl or ramekin to coat the bottom evenly. The caramel should be about 1/2 inch up the sides of the ramekins. Set aside to let the caramel cool and harden. Once cool, it can be optionally kept in the fridge.
  • Once hard, optionally butter the visible sides of the ramekins.
  • Making custard

  • Whisk the eggs, vanilla extract and caster sugar together in a bowl until they are mixed well.
  • Pour the milk and double cream into a saucepan. Gently heat over a low heat until such time you can still dip your finger in for a moment. It should be warm enough.
  • Add the milk to the egg mixture. Whisk together until smooth.
  • Strain the custard through a fine sieve onto another bowl.
  • Making the actual crème caramel

  • Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins.
  • Stand the bowls or ramekins in a roasting tin and fill the tin half-way with boiling hot water from a kettle or just boiled in a vessel.
  • Cook in the oven for about 40 mins or until the custard has just set. Do not overcook the custard – check around the edges of the dishes, to make sure no bubbles are appearing.
  • Immediately take the bowls or ramekins out. Keep it in a tray filled with cold water to stop further cooking. After a few mins, keep it on a rack to cool. Once cooled, wrap with cling film and refrigerate it (up to 2 days).
  • To serve, run a small knife around the edge of each bowl to loosen the custard.
  • Place a serving dish on top of the ramekin and turn upside down. If it doesn't release right away, gently shake the ramekin from side to side or tap from top a few times to help it out.

Notes

  • If your custard is still not set and is wavy, cook them for a little bit longer. Carefully transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and cool completely.
  • The method of cooking crème caramel - oven cooking in a water bath or stove top is called bain–marie.
  • Always use small portions or individual sized portions to cook instead of cooking a large portion. This will avoid under cooking or splitting or breaking of the crème caramel.

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